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Study: More Florida Families Choosing Power Bills Over Food

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Monday, May 11, 2009   

Tallahassee, FL - The economic crisis could mean lights out for a record number of Florida families struggling to pay their energy bills. According to a study released by the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association (NEADA), energy costs are becoming less affordable, more families are making dangerous sacrifices to pay their energy bills, and more are seeking assistance. In Florida, the federal allocation for energy assistance has nearly tripled from last year, to almost $102 million.

NEADA executive director Mark Wolfe says the additional federal money will help, but people still face difficult choices.

"They're having to struggle to pay the bills. In order to keep access to energy, they go without essentials. They cut back on food, they cut back on medicine, and it's a very, very difficult situation."

Wolfe says nearly one-third of the people surveyed went without food for at least a day, almost half went without medical care, and still others kept their homes at unsafe temperatures, putting their health at risk. Wolfe says even with the increase in federal funding, the assistance available may not be enough for the growing number of needy families.

Dorothy Inman-Johnson, executive director of the Capital Area Community Action Agency (CACAA), Tallahassee, says the number of people requesting services from her agency has nearly doubled in the last year, and more of them are first-time applicants.

"Last year, we didn't have people lined up and down our hallway as soon as we opened the door in the morning, waiting to apply for help. Many of them are people who have never applied and never thought they would ever be in these circumstances."

Already this year, CACAA has helped nearly 56,000 people statewide, Inman-Johnson says, compared to 73,000 all of last year. The increased federal allocation will allow CACAA to help more families pay their bills, she adds, and because the weatherization program was funded, families who participate in it will have smaller power bills because they've made their homes more energy efficient.

Additional information is available at www.neada.org.




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